What do you do when you are confronted with something that seems impossible, but you are told is true? For example, can one thing be in two places at the same time? (I am excluding parents, we have to do that routinely.)
I am talking about theory, here.
Can that be possible?
Some people take it as a challenge and immediately start digging. Others will say “I’m not going to take someone else’s word for it unless I can prove it, myself.”
But some people will accept that claim is true. Why?
Let us suppose they heard that claim from a person they trusted, like a physicist with bona fide Ph.D.s from a prestigious university and an excellent reputation. Or, let us suppose such a person saw this seemingly impossible phenomenon proven. Some things can be demonstrated, but are hard to explain—like quantum physics, where one particle, if left unobserved, can be demonstrated to be in two places at the same time.
That is how the Gospel of John opens. We are challenged to believe the impossible on the basis of the gospel writer’s credentials (who I will now refer to as John, for ease and because essentially, I believe this is his gospel), as an eyewitness disciple of Jesus, who will demonstrate his claims, so you and I can see that even though it is hard to understand, what the gospel claims is completely true.
John 1:1-5 The Eternal Word
In the first few verses of his gospel, John made the clear and uncompromising claim that Jesus is God
In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and God was the Word.
This One was in the beginning with God.John 1:1-2
This was not written about some epic hero, or some ancient legend, but about a thirty-year-old construction worker out of Nazareth. A regular guy, by all outward appearances, Who, sixty years before, had made headline news.
John was now saying that this man, this construction worker, was God. You recognized how John tied in with Genesis “In the beginning…” the first words of the Bible. Now John added more information to that. “In the beginning,” before Genesis, there was the Word, and the Word was with God and was God.
“Word,” the English word, comes from the Greek word Logos, which was familiar to the Greeks in their philosophy just as it was familiar to Jewish people in their philosophy. To the Greeks, Logos came to mean “First Cause,” the reason or the will behind the universe, an unknowable force. Plato, four hundred years before, had posited the Logos as both in the world and also in the mind of God.
In Hebrew this word was called “Debar” and it was God’s expression of Himself, “Thus saith the Lord.” Logos, or Debar, was the word that proceeded from God’s mouth and accomplished what God intended to do, almost as a synonym for God Himself.
John developed this understanding even further by stating Logos, the Word, was another personality with God. The nuance of the word “with,” in Greek, meant that Logos looked God in the eyes, not kneeling as a subject, nor looking down as a superior, but rather face to face as intimate equals. John was grappling with one of the deepest mysteries of God: the Trinity. “The Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
How could one God be more than one Person?
Yet here is the mystery: the Word was so intimately involved with God that their thoughts and purposes were one. The Word and God were one, as Jesus would later say, “I and the Father are one.”
But how could both Jesus and the Father be God?
How could the Son be His own Father?
Still, here in verse one John declared the eternal Word was a Person separate from God, was with God, and yet also was God.
There is no other way to translate these words without violating the laws of Greek grammar, though people have tried. John was taking great pains to make his point clear: There is only one God, and Jesus was one with that God, and Jesus is God.
Continuing in the theme of Genesis, John declared Jesus as the Creator of all things.
Look at the parallel between Genesis 1:3 “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’” and
Everything came into being through him, and apart from him not a single thing came into being.
What has come into being in Him was life, and the life was light of the people,John 1:3-4
Here is God the Son at work, He is Logos, Debar, the eternal Word, the force behind the universe, speaking into being what the Father has conceived and designed. Everything that was made, the material and spiritual worlds, were made by Jesus and for Him.
Jesus is also the source of life and light.
All other life depends on Jesus as the source of life. Think about what “life” is. You can tell the difference between life and death, but try to define exactly what life is without using that contrast.
In fact, life is one of the great mysteries of science and philosophy. No one really knows what life is, what it is that animates all these carbon-based enzymes and basic elements that make up life. But here is John saying that life is Jesus, He is the source of all life.
And with life comes light.
Light, as John used the word, is a symbol of knowledge, understanding and truth, and it points to the kind of life that goes beyond our physical, temporary life. Understanding and truth point to eternal life.
Then John introduced a hint of the struggle that would happen when light came into the world
and the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overtake (or comprehend) it.John 1:5
The original Greek word I translated as “overtake” actually means “to lay hold of, to lay hands on, to seize.” That can mean either as a hostile act, or in order to possess, so sometimes it’s translated “to comprehend.” John was saying that darkness cannot get a hold of the light, darkness cannot possess light, it cannot apprehend or comprehend light.
Think of what light does in a dark room. Darkness simply cannot win. No matter how tiny the light is, darkness has to recede. Darkness and light cannot exist together, and light is always the more powerful than darkness.
The light is intellectually the truth and morally holiness, which is contrasted to the darkness of intellectual error, and moral wrongdoing.
It is hard for us to accept that we live in a world of darkness. Think of all the scientific advancements, of our great social and technological progress. Think of all the great things we have done just in the last two hundred years. But if we are being honest, we have to admit that regardless of all of our impressive advances, we have not changed basic human problems of fear, hate, violence, injustice, and crime.
Now, John was not suggesting that the whole activity of life is the fight between light and darkness. This is not yin and yang. What he was saying is that light will not ever be overcome by darkness—it is the nature of light to always penetrate darkness, it cannot be taken hold of, or even be understood by darkness.
So, in these opening lines John introduces an incredible mystery: this construction worker from Nazareth is not only a man but God Himself.
The Creator has become a part of His own creation.
The source of deepest wisdom has limited Himself to being born as a baby and learning as a little child, and the origin of life and light was going to submit Himself to death and the darkness of a grave.
As I thought about this, I began to wonder what areas of my life might still be shrouded in darkness. How willing am I to admit there might be places I’ve kept in the dark? Places I don’t want to think about, that if I pretend hard enough, I can convince myself are not even there?
What would happen if I were to let Jesus’ light pierce that darkness?
[The Cosmos | NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI / AURA) -ESA / Hubble Collaboration / Public domain]